Today at work I took one of my engineers with me to a local department store. We were on a mission to purchase a new conference table for our office. We currently had two really nice conference tables in our office and no one was complaining about these tables. After all, they held the projector, laptops, writing pads, and people’s coffee. Many meetings had been had around these conference tables. Arguably, not all of them were productive meetings, but they were meetings nonetheless. So why in the world was I taking one of my staff out in the middle of a work day to buy another table?
The reason is not ground breaking. Heck, it was not even original. Many companies have done what I was doing. So don’t hold your breath for some fascinating story here. What I can tell you is that while our journey and purpose was not original or fantastic, to this engineer and to the rest of my department it was incredibly awesome. The reason we needed a new conference table was that we needed some fun in our office. We needed to replace those boring old conference tables with a 5 foot by 9 foot Ping Pong table. That’s right, a ping pong table. Told you it was not original. However, when we carried that table upstairs into the department you would have thought we had just distributed $500.00 bills to everyone. People laughed, smiled, got up from their desk to see what all the fuss was about. I got looks like “I can’t believe you really did this”. Before my eyes a team formed and started to assemble the table. There was excitement and teamwork.
The Ping Pong table was a small thing. It is however a symbol of the cultural changes that as a leader I have been trying to put in place over the last 3 months. This Ping Pong table for us represents unity, commitment, and fun! We will use it as a conference table when we have meetings and we will use it as a place to build team, innovate, and just laugh. Now I could have said, we don’t have space for a Ping Pong. I could have worried about what the other senior leaders in the organization might say, but instead I decided to proceed until apprehended. Not because I wanted to be a martyr, no because I wanted to breathe fresh life into my team. Everyone works so hard and having a little fun will make them work harder. That’s right the time they take to play a round of Ping Pong will enhance their energy when they go back to their desks.
The table has been up for a few days now and you wouldn’t believe the traffic we have had in our area. It has been great. I get a lot of comments like “I love your Ping Pong table” in which I respond you mean our conference room table (wink wink). Just a bit earlier I walked by and my Project Manager and one of the people from our Quality Department were having a round. Our HR department wants to have a tournament against my department. So not only will this new conference table spark internal commarady it is also having the potential to bring departments together. Now, try doing that with a traditional conference table.
What are some things you have implemented to impact your culture? I would love to hear about them, obviously I am not above borrowing others ideas if they will help bring about a great culture where people want to come to work.